2 Answers | Add Yours
The Odyssey makes significant use of the fixed epithet, and this involves the repeated use of a particular word or phrase to describe an object or person. Often, a really good story teller would be able to employ various epithets in difference places in his song, and thus he could keep the meter but make the story a little different with each telling.
In Sailing from Troy, Odysseus refers to the "bronze-tipped spears" employed by the Ciconians who rushed to avenge their fallen brothers who had been slain by Odysseus's men. Referring to them in this way highlights their might (it is the Bronze Age, after all) as well as their aggressiveness. These Ciconians successfully kill six men from each ship in their counter-raid against Odysseus's crew. Further, Odysseus calls Zeus, "cloud-gathering Zeus," to indicate both Zeus's great power as well as his ability to be destructive.
In the Land of the Lotus-eaters, Odysseus refers to their food, the "honey-sweet fruit of the lotus," drawing attention to the fruit's deliciousness as well as its power over men. It makes his men want to stay there forever and never return home to Ithaca (despite the fact that they were desperate to return home prior to eating it).
An epithet is a word or phrase used to describe a quality of that thing. In the Land of the Lotus Eaters, the description of the lotus flower itself is an epithet:
"the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus" (Odyssey, Book 9)
In Sailing from Troy, the epithet is in description of Odysseus' men:
"an evil fate from Zeus beset us luckless men" (Odyssey, Book 9)
We’ve answered 319,419 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question